6 January 2010
Wheatcroft: We aim to get Donington back to normal.
Kevin Wheatcroft has revealed that he hopes to return Donington Park to a state fit for racing, whilst aiming to sell on the lease for the venue.
The Wheatcroft family has revealed that it is doing all it can to restore Donington Park to its former glory after a failed bid to land the British Grand Prix left the venue's future in serious doubt.
Speaking to ThisisDerbyshire.com after reading about the warm response to a Facebook group dedicated to saving the circuit, Kevin Wheatcroft has said that the aim is to return racing to Donington Park, and have already started work to ensure that the venue is operational as soon as possible. The ill-fated F1 bid headed by Simon Gillett not only left sections of the historic circuit in tatters, but ultimately led to Gillett's Donington Ventures being placed in administration and 40 people out of work.
"I can reassure people we are doing everything we can to get things back to normal at Donington Park," Wheatcroft, who worked alongside his late father Tom in establishing the venue over 32 years, pointed out, "It has been a very difficult time for the whole family, especially with the death of my father being played out against the problems at the circuit, [but] we were given back the keys to the circuit back and immediately started to work out what happens next.
"The first thing has been to try to save as many jobs as possible [and], as of this week, we have re-opened the museum and cafe and race control office. We know the circuit needs a revamp – everywhere needs redecorating from time to time – but most of all we don't want it to lose its atmosphere. It's a difficult time to speculate with the world economy as it is, but I worked with my father for all those years and loved it alongside him enough to know what it means to everyone to ensure it will be still be there for the future."
Wheatcroft admits that he is particularly upset that the end of the Donington Ventures saga coincided with his father's final days.
"My father lived for his work and motorsport - he put his heart and soul into Donington Park and he was very upset by what happened to it and the mess it was left in," he revealed, "I am particularly upset because the Donington problems took up time that should have been spent with my father as he was dying. Whatever happens in the future, I will make sure this name will always be synonymous with the park."
The 150-year lease granted to Gillett reverted to the Wheatcrofts when no buyer could be found, and the family has since been counting the cost of restoring Donington Park to at least the circuit that racers and fans alike came to know and love before the F1 project was instigated.
"We have been assessing what is required to put things back as they were," Wheatcroft revealed, "We reckon this will cost in the region of about £600,000 but, to get it up to grand prix standard, you could add a couple of zeroes.
"[For now], we want to get the place operational again. We owe it to the many people who have been loyal to us throughout this, including the fans, the race and rally organisers and our staff. We never ceased to be amazed by the level of love people have for this place, and no-one has shown it more than the people signing up to the social networking group."
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